With a machete in one hand, coffee mug in the other and keys dangling at his side, Charles Cooper walked through overgrown weeds to visit Katie Mosley’s grave marker for the first time since 2007.
“It just doesn’t seem like it belongs here,” he said of the foot-high marble slab resting against a tree. “But I’m not sure anyone cares, and that is unfortunate.”
Cooper and his wife, Audrey, are again on a mission to make sure the Tennessee Valley Authority and Decatur-Morgan County Port Authority keep a promise they made more than two decades ago to Mosely and the hundreds buried around her.
It’s the same journey the Coopers of Moulton took in 2007 when both cleaned the one-acre cemetery on Mallard Fox Drive.
The cemetery is on property the Decatur-Morgan County Port Authority purchased from TVA when the 450-acre industrial park was developed more than 20 years ago.
While it is unclear what kind of deal was struck, the two entities vowed to rescue and take care of the cemetery, previous reports on the cemetery indicate.
The Morgan County Economic Development Authority spent about $5,000 in 1990 to clean and put a fence around the cemetery. The organization also placed metal crosses over unmarked graves.
Since then, little has been done to maintain the cemetery. Except for a small section at the entrance, the fence has fallen to the ground, and weeds and trees hide burial markers as they did before the industrial park was constructed.
“This is Alabama’s history, and it shouldn’t look like this,” Audrey Cooper said.
Morgan County Economic Development Authority President Jeremy Nails was out of the country and not available for comment.
TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said the company has no record indicating an agreement with anyone to take care of the cemetery.
“TVA has a policy to partner with groups or individuals to take care of cemeteries on TVA property, but we do not provide maintenance,” Bradley said.
TVA acquired land along the Tennessee River that included the cemetery in the 1930s for flood control as part of its public works projects.
Morgan County Archivist John Allison said the site is called the Burt Cemetery because it is part of a 40-acre tract that William Hardy Burt purchased from the U.S. government in 1852.
Burt, who died in 1879, is one of five identified burials in the cemetery. He was a North Carolina-born farmer and slaveowner, which is why some historians think the 50 to 60 unmarked graves may belong to slaves.
Allison said there are unfortunately abandoned burial grounds throughout Morgan County.
“It’s always difficult to determine who is responsible for taking care of them,” he said.
Charles Cooper worked for the city of Decatur and was mowing grass in the area when he discovered the cemetery in 2007.
“I’m not able to clean it again because of my health, but I hope someone does,” he said. “The people buried here deserve better than this.”
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